Friday, August 31, 2007

Mother Teresa's Dark Night

Folks, I encourage you to read an article written by Dinesh D'Souza, entitled, Mother Teresa's Dark Night, published at the Catholic Education Resource Center, in which he analyzes Time Magazine's recent piece abut Mother Teresa's "contradictions." I am also delighted to report that I obtained permission from Mr. D'Souza to translate the article into Spanish and publish it on Vivificat's Spanish sister site. Feel free to access it here.

As for myself, I'll say this: Atheists and skeptics are busy spinning Mother's Dark Night to their ideological advantage.

This is understandable. There are no atheists working in the streets of Calcutta or anywhere elese for that matter, to help the poorest of the poor and co-suffer with them. Sacrificial love is not part of their survival-of-the-fittest-and-brightest toolkit.

Mother Teresa symbolizes all that is wrong with the atheist worldview. Now atheist ideologues are beside themselves because they believe they have a weapon against her. They will be more than happy to cast the first stone. In the meantime, Mother Teresa's spiritual children, quietly and without pretense, continue the work she started, atheism and unbelief notwithstanding. Praised be the Lord for Mother Teresa and her children who teach us that love is a choice, not a mere feeling.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Which Church Father Am I?

Yes, yes another test. But this one really made me laugh!

You are Tertullian!
You possess many gifts, but patience isn’t one of them. You’re tough on yourself — and on others. You’re independent, too, and you don’t like to be told what to do. You wish the Church would be a little tighter in discipline. As for the pagans, you’ve pretty much written them off. Sometimes you think the Church would be a better place if you were in charge
. Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!
OH MY GOD. Am I really that bad? (LOL)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bishops' resistance to motu proprio begins to emerge

Folks, I am saddened to see that various bishops across the nation are beginning to concoct roadblocks to the motu proprio authorizing every priest of the Latin Rite to celebrate the Mass of Blessed Pope John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the Mass -- the so-called "Tridentine Latin Mass" according to the 1962 Missal.

I am not going to mention any names. That's not my style. However, I've received first-hand information that a bishop of a small U.S. diocese, during the weekly diocesan TV broadcast, discouraged a curious young interviewer to even attend the Tridentine Mass, even asserting that the motu proprio only applied to "preexisting groups." Since no such groups currently exist, His Excellency reasons that the motu proprio doesn't apply to him. The fact that he has bent over backwards to prohibit the celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass in his diocese and to sideline those Catholics who express a legitimate pastoral need to worship in that rite, forcing those Catholics to go elsewhere to receive spiritual sustenance according to their needs and temperament, remained unaddressed. In other words, said bishop is the reason why there are no indulted Tridentine Latin Masses celebrated in his diocese and now feels that the motu proprio reinforces his stance.

I am not a canonist or a liturgist. In my defense, I will say that I can read and follow an argument and based on that alone, I humbly submit that the bishop is wrong. His reading of the motu proprio contradicts both the spirit and the letter of this document, as well as the expressed desires of the Holy Father on this matter.

The fact of the matter is that, in my opinion, the motu proprio wrestled away from the bishops the power to grant or withold permission to celebrate the now extraordinary form of the Liturgy from priests of the Latin Rite under their jurisdiction. Without wishing to lecture bishops, I humbly submit that the motu proprio represents a direct appeal to all bishops to change their mindsets and attitudes regarding the celebration of this rite. Bishops are bound to think "How do I make this happen and sustain it" and not "What canonical or liturgical subterfuges I still can utilize to derail the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite."

The motu proprio is clear: all priests of the Latin Rite are free to celebrate this extraordinary form of the Eucharist, and groups of the Catholic faithful wishing to worship in said rite are free to come together, worship, and associate around it. I humbly submit that any other interpretation that undermines this basic finding is untrue to the wishes of the Holy Father. What is left for bishops and other local ordinaries to do is to ensure that the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite be celebrated appropriatedly and knowingly. Although I recognize that this might take some time as interested priests face a training curve to learn or relearn the old rubrics, unsympathetic bishops should not take advantage of the situation to enact liturgical and canonical requirements that would, in fact, stop the celebration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII in their dioceses for the foreseable future.

Canon 212, ss 3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is now part of Vivificat's mission statement, declares:
Christ's faithful have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.
The motu proprio itself exhorts the faithful to notify Rome in case of local inaction.

Where am I going with this? Let us pray that the Holy Spirit continues to enlighten our bishops and that our bishops be docile to the promptings of that same Spirit and in the same spirit of prayer and humility, I exhort my fellow Catholics who prefer to worship under this liturgical form to have their pens or word processors ready and ask from their Pastors that their individual dignity and pastoral needs be satisfied, all in a spirit of respect and reverence and Christian charity.

"The Triumph of Evangelical Catholicism"

Folks, John Allen, of the Catholic Register, has written a very interesting analysis, entitled, The Triumph of Evangelical Catholicism. These are the first four paragraphs:
History always cuts deeper than headlines, a point that clearly applies to recent Vatican moves to dust off the old Latin Mass and to declare Catholicism the one true church. Beneath the upheaval triggered by those decisions lies a profound shift in the church’s geological plates, and perhaps the best way of describing the resulting earthquake is as the triumph of evangelical Catholicism.

Beginning with the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, Catholicism has become a steadily more evangelical church -- uncompromising and unabashedly itself. Evangelical Catholicism today dominates the church’s leadership class, and it feeds on the energy of a strong grass-roots minority.

Proposing a Catholic counterpart to evangelical Protestantism may seem the ultimate in apples-and-oranges comparison, especially since some evangelicals would view being lumped in with the pope as tantamount to fighting words. Yet in a secularized, pluralistic world in which Christianity is no longer the air people breathe, Protestants and Catholics face the same crucial question: Should the relationship between church and culture be a two-way street, as most liberals say, with the church adjusting teachings and structures in light of the signs of the times? Or is the problem not so much a crisis of structures but a crisis of nerve, as most evangelicals believe, with the antidote being bold proclamation of timeless truths?

Liberal Catholicism enjoyed a heyday from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, and it’s not about to die off, overeager prophecies in some circles notwithstanding (see story). During the last quarter-century, however, the evangelicals have won most of the fights in terms of official Catholic policy. Whether that’s a rollback on reform or the emergence of a “new, sane modernity,” as Pope Benedict XVI claims, is a matter for debate, but there’s no mistaking which way the winds are blowing.
Please, continue reading here.

Commentary. I will limit my comments to say that, in spite of the continuous, wistful obituaries written by the likes of Fr. Joseph O'Leary, it is us, the "evangelical Catholics" and not his waning wing whom the Holy Spirit has annointed as the preservers of the Catholic spirit. It has taken two papacies to wrestle the initiative away from the dilluters of Catholic doctrine and restore the true intention of the fathers of Vatican II.

This effort is far from completion. Our effort to sideline the dilluters must continue.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Episcopalian diocese at it again

Folks, according to CNN/AP:
The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago included an openly lesbian priest among five nominees for bishop Tuesday, as fellow Anglicans demand that the church bar gay bishops.

The Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, who has a female partner, will be on the November 10 ballot.

If she wins, she would be the second bishop living with a same-sex partner in the Episcopal Church. New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who has a male partner, was consecrated in 2003, pushing the world Anglican Communion to the brink of schism.
Commentary. Unbelievable. The nomination is a slap on the face against the Episcopalian dioceses in the "global south" which, on biblical and historical grounds, reject the drive from the churches in the USA, Canada, and Australia to recognize and bless the homosexual lifestyle as holy before God and befitting of His sacramental blessings.

Although this is not a done deal, the mere fact that diocesan authoriries in that Episcopalian jurisdiction allowed this candidacy to move forward demonstrates their callous indifference towards the global communion and belies any pretense that they know how to live in a faith communion along with other believers. It is obvious to me that they no longer know what fellowship is.

The slide of the Episcopal Church toward apostasy and sectarian existence continues unabated.

Of dogs and men

Folks, as we know via CNN and numerous other media, the now former NFL quarterback, Michael Vick, met his downfall after pleading guilty of dog-fighting. The nation is disgusted and nauseated at this behavior and I, as a dog owner, cannot deny feeling the same way.

Yet, my pastor said it best last Sunday: all the scandal, the outcry, the media focus, the ruined career of an outstanding athlete and yet, more babies die through abortion every day that dogs on a fight.

Human beings are being killed, not in far off Afghanistan and Iraq, but right here at home, the most vulnerable and innocent from amongst us meet their demise and attract no attention.

Where the heck are our priorities?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today we remember St. Monica

St. MonicaSt. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370· He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, "it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back to Africa from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.

- Source: Catholic Online.

- Icon Source: Icons by Marice

Sunday, August 26, 2007

And my "nerd score" is...

I am nerdier than 86% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

I already knew I was one, but I never did measure my proclivities until now...

I am proud to be a nerd. Thank you bullies for throwing my books down the stairs in school. That taught me patience. Today, my standard of living is good and, unlike you, I still have a head full of hair--to those fellow nerds who don't, pax.

Back home, safe and sound

Folks, thanks to your prayers, I am back home safe and sound. The return trip was uneventful but the way down to Puerto Rico was plagued by cancelations, delays, and waits. I staggered into the hotel lobby at midnight, well over six hours behind the original schedule. Yes, the horror stories are true. I am thankful, though, that my luggage followed me without a hitch.

Besides meeting with my family, I was able to meet with other lay coworkers in the Lord's vine. Some of you might know two of them, Romualdo and Noemí Olazábal, a beautiful married couple working hard in the world and in the Church, full of the kindness of the Holy Spirit. You may know Romualdo, because he's the blogmaster of Apuntes del Camino, another Catholic blog by a fellow Puerto Rican.

You know, have you ever had the feeling you've known someone for your entire life, even when you've just met that person. Well, that's exactly what I felt when I met Romualdo and Noemí.

This is a gift of the Lord, when one meets fellow travelers to encourage and enrich each other along the way. There are no strangers in Him.

Blogging should be routine again this week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blogfast until Saturday August 25

Folks, I'm currently on a business trip. I will be pretty much Internet-less until Saturday. If I can find access, I may post. If not, see you on Saturday. Comment approval will be slow, please bear with me. Please, enjoy the current contents and pray for my safe return.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Podcast: Office of Readings for the Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot

St. Bernard of ClairvauxFolks, it's been a while since my last podcast because of lack of time and some technical problems which I think I've now solved.

You may now download a meditative reading of the second reading of today's Office of Readings, from a sermon by St. Bernard, from here and then listen to it on your computer or transfer it to your favorite MP3 player device. Or you may go to my OurMedia Page and listen to it from there. Finally, you may listen to it here, by pressing "play" below. Please, allow some minutes for download before you do so.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Mass vs. the Mass? Not for me.

Folks, Tidings On Line has a discussion on the two "forms" of the Mass. One is entitled Will anyone come? by Rev. Peter J. Daly and the other one Are we 'Latinized' enough? by Rev. Eugene Hemrick. Both articles are accessible here.

As for me, this is what I am going to do in face of the motu proprio and the liberalization of the Tridentine Mass. In fact, the Church has given us the solution regarding attendance to the "two forms" of the Latin Rite. "Ordinarily" I will attend the "ordinary form" of the Latin Rite but, "extraordinarily," I will attend the "extraordinary form." Bingo. That will do it for me. I will have no ritual schizophrenia over this. Nor will I lose any sleep about it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and his journey from Judaism to radical Islam to Christianity

Folks, check out this story (Rejecting radical Islam -- one man's journey) in CNN about Daveed Gartenstein-Ross who moved from "mystic" Judaism to Islamic extremism and then on to Christianity. The CNN article is a hook to watch their upcoming series, God's Warriors.

Gartenstein-Ross is now a counter-terrorism consultant who works with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think-tank formed after September 11, 2001 and author of My Year Inside Radical Islam: A Memoir. You may read a short biography here and scroll down to access some of his writings.

I found Gartenstein-Ross' article The First Openly Muslim Priest an accurate description of the brainless drivel passing as "ecumenical theology" in the Episcopal Church in this country of late. The fact that Gartenstein-Ross has seen deeply inside Islam qualifies him more to speak intelligently about this subject than these right reverends whose sole call to fame has been for the joy they've taken in sacrificing Christianity upon the altar of political and theological correctness.

Gartenstein-Ross is probably a marked man in the eyes of Islamists. Do remember that in countries where Islamic law or sharia is the law of the land, conversion from Islam is punishable by death, a direct application of what the Koran, Islamic traditions, and classical Islamic jurisprudence establish as the right punishment for apostates from Islam. Therefore, let us pray for the man, for his safety and that of his family, and that may the Lord also bless his work in favor of the government of the people, by the people, and of the people throughout the globe.

Sex and Sanctity

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The first reaction to a subject like sex and sanctity is wonder or misgiving. We have become so accustomed to associate sex with sin that even our vocabulary has been affected by the association. The first thought that comes to most people’s minds on hearing words like impurity or immorality is some failure against chastity, as though there was something inherently wrong with the use of the sexual faculties, or as though the essence of evil was sin against the sixth and ninth commandments of the Decalogue.

I think there is some explanation for this unwarranted connection between sex and sin in the Manichaean virus that first infected the stream of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, that became a major heresy in Europe, as Albigenseanism in the thirteenth century, that re-entered Western society under Calvin and Jansenius, and that still deeply affects large segments of Euro-American culture today.

My purpose in the present conference is not to disprove Manichaean dualism, which postulates that matter, and therefore the human body, is evil. I wish rather to show that, as Catholic Christianity understands the body and the functions of the organs of reproduction, sex is a creature that, in God’s providence, is intended to help mankind reach not only their eternal destiny but to become holy. It is not as though we can be saved in spite of sex, but sex is a divinely instituted means of achieving our salvation, in fact our sanctification.

The stress in my presentation, therefore, is on sex as a means, and sanctity as the end. I assume that sanctity is achieved by doing the will of God according to one’s state of life; and sex is an inevitable part of everyone’s state of life. Sex is inescapable, sanctity is attainable. And a major factor in attaining sanctity depends on how a person copes with sex in his or her particular state of life.

For the sake of convenience, I will distinguish three general states of life in each of which sex is divinely intended to be a means of sustaining and growing in the life of God.

Please, continue reading here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blogging slow-down

Folks, I've been very busy lately and I haven't had much time or wherewithal to blog. It appears that the trend will continue throughout the next two weeks. Blogging will be sparse through this busy period. Please enjoy the current contents and please, leave your comments! I do tend to react to them...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Today we remember St. Maximilian Kolbe

Source: American Catholic: Saint of the Day

I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked and the slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

He is the patron saint for drug addicts, families, imprisoned people, journalists, political prisoners, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. (Source: Catholic Forum)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Central points in the current cultural and political debate

Extracted from Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life

2. Civil society today is undergoing a complex cultural process as the end of an era brings with it a time of uncertainty in the face of something new. The great strides made in our time give evidence of humanity’s progress in attaining conditions of life which are more in keeping with human dignity. The growth in the sense of responsibility towards countries still on the path of development is without doubt an important sign, illustrative of a greater sensitivity to the common good. At the same time, however, one cannot close one’s eyes to the real dangers which certain tendencies in society are promoting through legislation, nor can one ignore the effects this will have on future generations.

A kind of cultural relativism exists today, evident in the conceptualization and defence of an ethical pluralism, which sanctions the decadence and disintegration of reason and the principles of the natural moral law. Furthermore, it is not unusual to hear the opinion expressed in the public sphere that such ethical pluralism is the very condition for democracy.[12] As a result, citizens claim complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices, and lawmakers maintain that they are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends,[13] as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value. At the same time, the value of tolerance is disingenuously invoked when a large number of citizens, Catholics among them, are asked not to base their contribution to society and political life – through the legitimate means available to everyone in a democracy – on their particular understanding of the human person and the common good. The history of the twentieth century demonstrates that those citizens were right who recognized the falsehood of relativism, and with it, the notion that there is no moral law rooted in the nature of the human person, which must govern our understanding of man, the common good and the state.

3. Such relativism, of course, has nothing to do with the legitimate freedom of Catholic citizens to choose among the various political opinions that are compatible with faith and the natural moral law, and to select, according to their own criteria, what best corresponds to the needs of the common good. Political freedom is not – and cannot be – based upon the relativistic idea that all conceptions of the human person’s good have the same value and truth, but rather, on the fact that politics are concerned with very concrete realizations of the true human and social good in given historical, geographic, economic, technological and cultural contexts. From the specificity of the task at hand and the variety of circumstances, a plurality of morally acceptable policies and solutions arises. It is not the Church’s task to set forth specific political solutions – and even less to propose a single solution as the acceptable one – to temporal questions that God has left to the free and responsible judgment of each person. It is, however, the Church’s right and duty to provide a moral judgment on temporal matters when this is required by faith or the moral law.[14] If Christians must «recognize the legitimacy of differing points of view about the organization of worldly affairs«,[15] they are also called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism. Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society.

On the level of concrete political action, there can generally be a plurality of political parties in which Catholics may exercise – especially through legislative assemblies – their right and duty to contribute to the public life of their country.[16] This arises because of the contingent nature of certain choices regarding the ordering of society, the variety of strategies available for accomplishing or guaranteeing the same fundamental value, the possibility of different interpretations of the basic principles of political theory, and the technical complexity of many political problems. It should not be confused, however, with an ambiguous pluralism in the choice of moral principles or essential values. The legitimate plurality of temporal options is at the origin of the commitment of Catholics to politics and relates directly to Christian moral and social teaching. It is in the light of this teaching that lay Catholics must assess their participation in political life so as to be sure that it is marked by a coherent responsibility for temporal reality.

The Church recognizes that while democracy is the best expression of the direct participation of citizens in political choices, it succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person.[17] Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent. The democratic structures on which the modern state is based would be quite fragile were its foundation not the centrality of the human person. It is respect for the person that makes democratic participation possible. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the protection of «the rights of the person is, indeed, a necessary condition for citizens, individually and collectively, to play an active part in public life and administration».[18]

Read the entire document here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Over here, over there, everywhere : a review of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales

Folks: I am going to change the pace a little bit and bring you a review of J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5: The Lost Tales recently released directly to DVD.

But first, a word about Babylon 5 (B-5). Yes, I am a fan. I started watching at the prompting of a co-worker who has since moved on to bigger and better things in the service of our country. I watched, and I was intrigued. My first impression was not entirely positive. I thought that it was sci-fi on the cheap, and knee-jerk reaction to Star Trek: Deep Space 9, a show I was back then getting into, Trekkie that I was and continue to be. Some of the wardrobe and the makeup seemed to me exaggerated and ridiculous. This Londo Mollari character, for example, seemed to me out of the court of Louis XIV and this notion of a "republic" led by a monarchic emperor seemed to me contradictory. Yet...there was something about it...and it was the story.

Like Mr. Straczynski has said many times before, B-5 has a beginning, a middle point, and an end. It was a story meant to be told in 5 years. What a story it was. I think it was one of the most intelligent sci-fi shows ever made. Nothing was lost in the dialogue and the characters, they were human, even the aliens, each one extraordinarily gifted and profoundly flawed. They all meshed together and each character grew from their mutual interactions and it was a joy to see.

B-5 was a morality tale, a fight of darkness against the light, of good versus evil; even those who represented evil had a dark aura and those who stood for evil and conflict were able to make a plausible argument for the morality of their actions.

B-5 was deeply spiritual too. A strange work, deeply respectful of all religions and spiritualities, but particularly of Catholicism; a work that has come out from a declared atheist. Straczynski treats religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, with the utmost respect. Several B-5 episodes have a clear Catholic subtheme, for in B-5's universe, the Church survives and still has something to say, unlike in Star Trek and other shows, where religion has been subsumed into a vague mysticism tinged with "spirituality," the thing Hollywood wants us to swallow in order to grow from "superstition" and "fundamentalism" into the light of "tolerance" and "openness." Phoey! I thank God - because there is a God - for Straczynski, a living example proving than an atheist doesn't have to be a sophomoric, pompous jerk towards religion and believing people, that at least one can treat the subject with respect. Eat that, Dawkins, Harris, et al.

In many instances, Catholics have been heroes in B-5, always portrayed in a most positive light, unafraid to face the deep of questions posed by a Universe that is very, very big. Catholic allusions are also galore. Which takes us to these two episodes bundled in this Babylon 5: The Lost Tales DVD. Once again, good faces evil.

The stories are set ten years before the series finale. In the first episode, Over Here, Colonel Lockley, B-5's commanding officer, sends for a Catholic priest to face a a new evil at the station, the kind that only a Catholic priest is qualified to face. What will that be? I can tell you, but then I would spoil it. I will say this: the story resonated with allusions to C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy.

In the second story, Over There, John Sheridan, former B-5 commander and President of the Interstellar Alliance (I.A.), heads to B-5 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the I.A. But then Galen, the technomage, shows him a future in which Earth is destroyed by a sneak Centauri attack, led by a future Emperor who is now Sheridan's own guest. The young man is untested, and he could go either way: he could become a genocidal sociopath but he also shows a surprising openness to good and kindness. What will Sheridan do?

Let me finish by saying this: I love Star Trek, and I own some of the movies, and at least one of the "fan continuum" DVDs. But I own the entire B-5 series, the made-for-tv movies and now this one. I find them intelligent, challenging, and delight to watch. If you haven't seen the B-5 series, that's OK, you don't have in order to understand what's going in Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Buy them, and get your friends to watch them. You won't be disappointed. And I hope that there is more to come from the mind of J. Michael Straczynski and the Babylon 5 universe.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today we remember St. Clare of Assisi

Source: RCNet

CLARE, a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi, lived in the 13th Century. Her reputation was like that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "a saint in our midst".

CLARE was born into a wealthy family, educated in the domestic arts of spinning and needle work, reading and writing. She knew about St. Francis because of his love for the poor. Francis' father was a successful cloth merchant. In 1204 Francis enlisted in Assisi's war with Perugia. After a year as a prisoner of war, his view of society and its social structures was forever altered.

During this time, urban development was beginning and capitalism was in its infancy. Goods were created through cheap labor and poor working conditions. Francis could see that the poor were most harmed by capitalism and urbanization. He left his father's business and began a simple life dependent on God. He begged and preached in the streets of Assisi and ultimately formed the community of Friars Minor.

IN 1210 Clare heard Francis preach detachment from things and money, to live in faith, that God will provide as God cares for the birds of the air (Matt 6).

IN 1212 Clare left her family and joined Francis. Inspired by Francis' faith, Clare lived and believed in Divine Providence. She depended on God to supply what she and the community needed. Her small group of followers became known as Poor Clares.

IN the document on her canonization in 1255, a number of miracles are re-told. Once, finding an empty jar of oil filled when they were in need, Clare believed God had filled it as "a gift of divine generosity". Clare accepted all things and people as a gift from God. She lived among her community as an equal doing daily works with everyone else. She was attentive to the well-being of each sister. Once Clare suspected a sister was suffering from depression and gave her extra sensitivity and care. The nun was restored to health and peace of heart, the canonization document says. The "Legend of Clare" tells us she healed a young boy with an emotional disorder.

FRANCIS also respected Clare's gifts of listening and insights. He and the brothers went to Clare whenever they had to make an important decision. Pope Gregory IX, a regular visitor, often consulted her opinion. Soon Clare and her communities became known for their care and prayers for people in need.

CLARE was canonized two years after her death and thousands of women still follow her inspiration as Poor Clares around the world. We are blessed to be among these.

- Recommended reading:
  • Armstrong, Regis, and Brady, Ignatius. "Francis and Clare: The Complete Works". N.Y.:Paulist Press, 1982.

  • Armstrong, Regis. "Clare of Assisi Early Documents". N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1988.
  • - Are you a single woman considering a religious vocation? Become a Poor Clare!

    - Source: RCNet.

    Behold my peculiar aristocratic title

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    Friday, August 10, 2007

    There are no atheists in the streets of Calcutta

    Helping others to the extreme, that is.

    Folks, we've often heard the expression "there are no atheists in foxholes" repeated over and again to imply that, in the direst of situations, even the most recalcitrant soul gambles on the existence of a transcendent divine being and prays to him in one single, fear-induced, intuitive leap. This notion has had enough traction in popular culture that organized atheists have begun to complain and have been, in fact, complaining for a while now that the oft used cliché is untrue and unrepresentative of the feelings of the vast majority of atheists.

    Since I am feeling uncommonly generous today I will grant these longsuffering atheists the recognition they demand: yes, there are atheists in the foxholes. They arrive there as atheists and leave as atheists, perhaps even more so. I even grant that many arrive into the foxholes as religious believers and leave as atheists, even if militant atheists are either unwilling or unable to recognize that another significant segment of our servicemen and women who were atheists or agnostics at best, do in fact experience a religious reorientation, if not an outright conversion, while fighting in foxholes. From an empirical viewpoint we must recognize that the phenomena are too variegated to extract a meaningful generalization except this one: you take from the foxhole what you brought into it. And, to sweeten this pie of concessions, I also admit that the phenomenon extends to those serving in police, firefighting, and emergency services and other such humanitarian capacities whose members often have to face human evil first hand.

    There are atheists in the foxholes and atheists who are endowed with perfectly ordinary morality living outside the foxholes. Fine, let's grant that and let's grant too that most of them are outstanding citizens who, in their behavior, are no better or worse than that of your average, nominal Christian.

    Why be a Christian, then? That's a fair question. Let me attempt an answer.

    What I fail to see in them—in atheists and nominal Christians alike—is a sense of morality so strong, so intense, and so overwhelming, that it drives them to extremes in tending to the needs of the dregs of society, those fellow human beings left behind by all our utilitarian calculations—their vague feelings of solidarity, impotence, and guilt notwithstanding.

    No, that kind of drive to serve the downtrodden to the extreme does not come from human empathy alone. It comes from a Source outside of the self and only those who are attuned to this Source are able to transcend the demands of ordinary humanism into something larger and more glorious. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:
  • It took a believer like Mother Theresa to serve the poorest of the poor, the dying even, on the streets of Calcutta and not an enlightened atheist. Not one atheist joined her at first and I don't know of any one now, though I know that there are no atheists among the nuns and brothers who continue her work today.

  • There were no atheists in the leprosarium of Molokai either, washing the oozing wounds of those confined therein during the 19th century, or outside of Assisi in the 13th during the so-called "Dark Ages" but it took a Fr. Damien and a Francis of Assisi to do that. But perhaps that's unfair, maybe because there were no atheists in Francis' time, but definitely there were plenty during Fr. Damien's time. Not one atheist joined him, though, probably because they didn't want to end up like Fr. Damien, dying himself of leprosy in the service of others.

  • Nor do we know of one single atheist volunteering to die in other's stead in a Nazi death camp, but Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, a darned believer, did so willingly and lovingly. The man Kolbe saved later attended the slain priest's canonization ceremony. He was not an atheist.

  • Dorothy Day, a non-canonized saint—her process is ongoing—is one with whom socially-minded atheists can relate to, but only up to a point. According to Jim Forest, she founded the Catholic Worker movement here in the U.S. back in 1933. The movement is best known for houses of hospitality located in run-down sections of many cities, though a number of Catholic Worker centers exist in rural areas. Food, clothing, shelter and welcome is extended by unpaid volunteers to those in need according to the ability of each household. Beyond hospitality, Catholic Worker communities are known for activity in support of labor unions, human rights, cooperatives, and the development of a nonviolent culture. Those active in the Catholic Worker are often pacifist people seeking to live an unarmed, nonviolent life. During periods of military conscription, Catholic Workers have been conscientious objectors to military service. Many of those active in the Catholic Worker movement have been jailed for acts of protest against racism, unfair labor practices, social injustice and war. But I say that she held none of these activities and labels as ends in themselves. Dorothy Day may have held a progressive attitude toward social and economic rights, but she did so with a very orthodox and traditional sense of Catholic morality and piety. Although she had written passionately about women’s rights, free love and birth control in the 1910s, she opposed the sexual revolution of the sixties, saying she had seen the ill effects of a similar sexual revolution in the 1920s, when she had an abortion (cfr. Dorothy Day's Wikipedia article). She had the courage to retract her earlier, very bad ideas as she beheld the outcome of such opinions late in her life. The final end of her activism was Man in God.
  • What did Blessed Mother Theresa, Sts. Damien of Molokai, Francis of Assisi, Maximilian Kolbe, and Dorothy Day had in common? Well, that they all believed in the crude superstition—"crude" in the eyes of the "bright" atheists— that an executed Jewish carpenter of 2,000 years ago—whose claims, and perhaps his very existence, are highly questionable—was the one and only incarnation of a bloodthirsty tribal desert deity who dared to preach human brotherhood and universal love at the cost of one's own life, having had the temerity to back this message with his own death.

    This firm belief in the person, teachings, life, death, and resurrection of a certain Jesus of Nazareth drove these men and women to look at the most needy from among us, not as fortuitous products of a blind, undirected natural process, but as children of God. These holy people moved beyond any inherited or learned feelings of social solidarity and sympathy, choosing instead to see their neighbor as men and women endowed with an intrinsic, inalienable dignity transcending any selfish, "objectivist" calculus and utility, and worthy of a disinterested, even self-sacrificial love.

    Really, what is the value, according to our culture, of helping a terminally ill AIDS victim in India and Africa, or a leper in a leper colony hidden in the armpits of the world, when these resources should be better spent in helping only those who have a chance to recover, or better still, for illness prevention? Our materialistic culture, imbued with secular values, impels us to write off the downtrodden in the quest of making the healthy and the sane more "happy" at the expense of the sick, the suffering, and even the unborn. It takes a religious believer to go to the extreme of ministering to those whom society has labeled as not worth the time saving, curing, and comforting.

    The funny thing is that God—because there is a God—wants us to live and behave like Mother Theresa & Co. did. Mediocrity was never to be the standard of Christian living: heroism in the service of others was and is. Nominal Christians are just practical atheists, unable or uninterested in loving others as themselves. They need not apply for the label of "compassionate people."

    All right, there are atheists in the foxholes. Let's all agree to that. But look into the nook and crannies where the poorest of the poor crawl in to die and you will see that it is highly unlikely you'll find one single atheist ministering to them, but you can be almost certain that you will find with them believers who love them unconditionally, often even sharing their bitter fates to the very end.

    To soothe and cure the sick and the downtrodden of the world we need more, no less believers. Atheism will become much more convincing the day it can generate a Mother Theresa whole cloth from purely atheistic moral principles.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    A meditation on the martyrdom of St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross

    Today we remember a modern martyr.

    Folks, Edith Stein is among my most admired saints. From devout Jew to convinced atheist and a promising career as a ground-breaking philosopher in the phenomenological school, she chose to abandon all in favor of conversion to Christianity, even to Catholicism and embrace the Discalced Carmelite habit. Her conversion to Christianity deepened, and did not diminished, her identity as a Jew and the connection to the people of the Lord according to the flesh.

    The Nazis were well aware of this connection, for they dragged her out of the convent in the Netherlands where she had taken refuge and murdered her in the gas chamber after a ride in the death train. She died as a Catholic and a Jew among Jews.

    Her martyrdom was quintessentially Christian. What is the Christian response in the faith of wanton, overwhelming evil? Is it to fight it back with the weapons of the world? Many do think so, but this is not the Christian way. Others think martyrdom consists of the taking of one's own life in the process of taking many, many others. This view is even worse, for it desecrates the meaning of martyrdom by injecting it with a justification for mass-murder.

    No. The Catholic Christian view of the ultimate weapon against evil is completely counterintuitive, even senseless to a doubting world. It consists of laying down one's arms, the real ones and the figurative ones. One must disarm in what would appear to be utter surrender, and like a lamb taken to the slaughter house, in one sweeping act of utter love, the Christian offers his or her life as a holocaust to the Lord, leaving nothing for anyone in an apparent act of complete annihilation. It is in through this action, patterned after the prototype of Christ's suffering and dying on the Cross, that the Christian soul takes the ultimate stance against evil.

    The Christian response to the questions "Why a good God allows evil things to happen" and "What should the Christian response to wanton evil be" is found on the Cross on which God himself was immolated. This is the unique Christian answer to the problem of evil and no other religion on earth, no philosophy, has crafted such an eloquent argument than that of God suffering evil for our sake. The Christian martyr, then, reaches perfection in a Christ-like death and even if we aren't able to see it with the eyes of the flesh, we are certain in faith that such a death draws a line on the sand across which evil shan't pass.

    The value of St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross's legacy is not found on her intellect, writings, conversion, and even her exemplary life. The value of her legacy lies on her martyr death, in the way she chose to share the collective destiny of her martyr people, in the ultimate manner in which she chose to resist evil via non-violence. That's what made her a saint, that's what made her a martyr and that's why she's now fully contemplating the face of her Beloved.

    St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    How Chaplains, Soldiers, Keep the Faith

    The Four ChaplainsFolks, I want to invite you to read a series of articles published in Newsweek back in June on the gain, loss, and sometimes regaining of faith in the military by chaplains and soldiers. Theirs is a poignant story and we need to learn how to minister to them, as well as to ourselves when the tough questions come to the fore during these times of war.

    The Military: Faith Under Fire

    Chaplains: The Calm in the Chaos

    One Flag, Many Faiths

    In God They Trust

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    Today we remember the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

    The four antiphones and concluding prayer of today's Morning Prayer:

    Today the Lord Jesus Christ shone with splendor on the mountain, his face like the sun and his clothes white as snow.

    Today the Lord was transfigured and the voice of the Father bore witness to him; Moses and Elijah appreared with him in glory and spoke with him about the death he was to undergo.

    The law was given through Moses and prophecy through Elijah. Radiant in the divine majesty, they were seen speaking with the Lord.

    A voice spoke from the cloud: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

    Let us pray: God our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets, and show us the splendor of your beloved sons and daughters. As we listen to the voice of your Son, help us to become heirs to eternal life with him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    St. Francis of Assisi: Conclusion

    Fr. Francis X. Russo, OFMCap

    Death and Ascension of St, FrancisI’m almost finished.

    When in the late fall of 1996 Msgr. Kenneth Velo gave the funeral homily for the well-loved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, he quoted St. Francis: “Preach always. When necessary, use words.” It’s a great quotation and makes a wonderful sound-bite. It’s just right for a bumper sticker or a tee shirt—but--St. Francis never said them in just that way.

    However….they capture the essence of something Francis DID say. One day he asked Br. Leo to go out to preach with him. They walked all around the town in fraternal harmony and with a joyful countenance and finally found themselves back at their starting point. As Francis prepared to re-enter the friary, Leo could no longer contain himself: “But Father Francis,” he protested, “when are we going to preach?” And Francis calmly answered: “We already did!”

    Dear brothers and sisters, cynics are not lacking who say that the last Franciscan died on October 3, 1226, when death closed the eyes of Francis Bernardone of Assisi. I disagree. When your life and mine proclaim the Holy Gospel by how we love one another and by the faithful witness to the fundamental Christian values that they demonstrate, Francis lives again. A true “re-incarnation” takes place.

    People may or may not consider us “Franciscan.” But that doesn’t matter. As the fabled Juliet said to her star-struck Romeo: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    “Preach always,” dear friends. “When necessary, use words.”

    - All of the works traditionally attributed to Giotto's reproduced throughout the series are part of a sequence illustrating the legend of Saint Francis, as recorded by Thomas of Celano and Bonaventura, in a cycle of 28 frescoes in the Upper Churchof the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. The entire cycle may be accessed at the Wikimedia Commons.

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    St. Francis: Lover of Animals

    St. Francis' Sermon to the Birds-GiottoEverybody seems to know that Francis loved animals, and every year on or around his feast day on October 4th, Anglicans and Catholics ask God’s blessing on furry and feathered and scaly creatures in his honor. (Last year, I noticed that a local Methodist church also featured a blessing of animals for the feast of St. Francis.)

    Francis of Assisi was a lover of animals, and in a particular way of those who reminded him of Jesus – of lambs, who made him think of Christ, the lamb of God that the Baptist speaks of, and the lamb who was led to slaughter, that Isaiah portrays (Is 53,7); of worms, who reminded him of the “worm and no man” expression that Psalm 22 uses to describe his suffering Lord. He tamed a wolf that was terrorizing the townspeople of Gubbio. He preached to a variety of birds on one occasion; and on another, he asked the swallows to be quiet so that he could preach without distraction to human beings. During a period of fasting he observed on an island in Lake Trasimene, a rabbit “attached himself to Francis and would hardly leave him” (Cuthbert’s Life…, p. 23). On Mount La Verna, a falcon woke him regularly for prayer at midnight. And at the moment of his death, outside his cell a flock of larks began a joyful song.

    Yet, for all his love of animals as fellow creatures of the Lord, Francis never became a vegetarian, and he never recommended vegetarianism to his friars. On the contrary, he once told his friars to celebrate the joyful feast of Christmas, even though it was Friday, not only by eating meat themselves, but more…. He said: “I want even the WALLS to eat meat on that day, and if they cannot, at least on the outside they should be rubbed with grease!” (2 Celano, 151).

    Friday, August 03, 2007

    St Francis the Peace-maker

    Fr. Francis X. Russo, OFMCap

    St. Francis before the Sultan - GiottoFrancis lived during the time of the crusades and sailed to Egypt in order to speak directly to the Sultan. If he could convert him to Christ, peace would come and there would be no cause for war. The Sultan listened to him graciously but refused to become a Christian. Francis attempt to convert the Sultan and to bring peace to the Holy Land was unsuccessful, but his efforts at dialog and diplomacy are a shining light amidst the gloom of the failure of the Crusades.

    Back in Assisi, Francis composed a beautiful poem that calls upon all creation to praise the Lord—Sister Moon and Brother Sun and Mother Earth.
    William Draper has composed a popular version of this CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES and set it to music. We know it as “ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING” and sing it in many of our churches.

    Well, when someone told Francis that there was a feud going on between the Bishop and the Mayor of Assisi, he composed another stanza and added it to his CANTICLE: “Praised be you, my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love,” he wrote, “and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed are they who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, shall they be crowned.” Then, too ill he go himself, he sent two of the friars to both Mayor and Bishop and had them sing the Canticle with that new verse that he had composed precisely for the two of them. They were somoved by Francis’ gesture that they settled their differences and were reconciled.

    Francis lived as a disciple of peace and a maker of peace. His continual greeting to people he met along his path was “Pax et bonum!”—“Peace and all good things to you!” In that last farewell he took of his friars—a farewell so full of meaningful messages—he advised his friars that when they entered the homes of people they were visiting, these words should be on their lips: “May the Lord give you His peace!”
    No wonder, then, that the prayer that begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your PEACE” was attributed to him. And no wonder, then, that the high and the low, the powerful and the powerless, have looked to him as a beacon of peace!

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    St. Francis and his love for the Incarnation

    Fr. Francis X. Russo, OFMCap

    St. Francis institutes the Nativity scene at Greccio - by GiottoAnother aspect of the life of Christ that was a source of deep reflection for Francis was the contemplation of Jesus in the manger. During Advent of 1223, he found himself at a rude hermitage a friend had built for him in Greccio. With Christmas Day so close at hand, Francis felt a strong sense of how God sent His only Son to become a little baby so that He could draw near to us. He said to his friend: “I would make a memorial of that Child who was born in Bethlehem and in some way behold with my own eyes the hardships of His infancy, how He lay in a manger on the hay, with the ox and the ass standing by.” So the friend had a stable built near the hermitage, with a manger, and near the manger an altar.

    Word went out to the friars and to the people of the area to come to the hermitage for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. And so up the hill they came, bearing burning torches that lighted up the stable and the altar. Francis preached with such rapture about the Child of Bethlehem that he set the hearts of the people ablaze with the fire of his own emotions.

    Did Francis’ re-enactment launch the Nativity scenes that grace our churches and homes on December 25th? Nativity scenes were already known in England and France in the 12th century, but it seems that Francis’ re-living of Bethlehem that night, lovingly recalled by his friars as they rapidly grew in numbers and influence throughout Europe, spread the custom far and wide.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    St. Francis: Lover of the Cross and Reformer

    Fr. Francis X. Russo, OFMCap

    St. Francis receiving the stigmata - El GregoAlthough Francis is a many-sided personality, a number of biographers are convinced that his love of the Cross was at the heart of his relationship to God.

    Others may disagree, but there is no denying that the Crucified One was an object of Francis special devotion all of his life, and especially so since the day he found himself praying before the crucifix at the church of San Damiano, just outside the city of Assisi.

    That little church had been built at least two hundred years before Francis was born and now it was in a crumbling state of disrepair. As he was walking nearby, Francis felt drawn to enter and pray before the altar. And as he prayed, he was both startled and terrified when he heard a voice that seemed to come directly from the crucifix above the altar, a voice that he took to be Our Lord’s own. The voice called out his name and said to him: “Francis, go and rebuild my church, which as you see is falling into ruin.” He couldn’t move, but finally he realized that THIS was the guidance from the Lord that he had been waiting for. And astonished as he was, he made a short but to the point reply: “Lord, gladly will I rebuild it!”

    Francis wanted to be perfectly obedient to that command and began to repair that church with his own hands. Only with time would he realize that the Lord was calling him to rebuild THE CHURCH, in a much larger sense than with stone and mortar. He was calling him to be a re-former!

    Interestingly enough, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, and himself a Capuchin Franciscan friar, used these same words during his installation Mass three years ago. As new archbishop of that very troubled and de-moralized flock, Sean said that he would take Jesus’ words to Francis as directed both to himself and to the archdiocese as a whole. TOGETHER, they would strive “to rebuild the church” of Boston.

    By being faithful to his Lord, Francis would become a reformer. He would start with himself, giving himself over completely to the will of His Master. He would not condemn church authorities at any level—neither pope nor bishop nor local priest. In fact, as soon as he had a group of 12 men who wished to join him, he went directly to the Pope in Rome to get approval for his new Order. As for the bishops, he indicated the respect he held for all of them when he wrote (in Chapter IX of his Rule): “Let the brothers not preach in the diocese of any bishop when he has opposed their doing so.” And regarding priests, whether faithful or unfaithful to their calling, he had this to say: “I desire to respect, love and honor them… I do not want to consider any sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them….” (Testament).

    Francis was a source of reformation for both the clergy and the laity by his style of living and by his fervent preaching. What he told his brothers to do, HE did: “I exhort my brothers not to quarrel… or judge others when they go about in the world, but let them be… peaceful… and humble, speaking courteously to everyone…” (Chapter III, Rule of 1223).

    When I think of Francis and his devotion to the Crucified Lord, I think of Billy Graham. In 1983, Billy gave a talk to evangelists gathered from all over the world at Amsterdam. He told about how during one of his first crusades in the city of Dallas in 1952, he had felt discouraged one night with the poor response to his call for conversion to Christ. He shared his feelings with a lay friend, who had been present, and this man said to him: “Billy, you didn’t talk about the Cross!” The next night, Billy said, he talked about the blood that Christ shed for us, and “a great host of people responded.” The modern Baptist Billy and the medieval Catholic Francis, separated by eight centuries of time and three thousand miles of ocean, have proved themselves to be one in love for their Crucified Lord.

    The devotion that Francis had for the Cross found expression in a prayer that he would say whenever he spied a cross on the steeple of a distant church as he traveled from one town to another to preach. He would pray: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ...and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” That prayer has become a part of the devotional known as “the stations of the Cross” and is a prayer well-known to Catholics who meditate on the Passion of Christ during Lent.

    Two years before he died, Francis decided to spend several days in quiet contemplation on Mount La Verna. While Francis was wrapped in prayerful contemplation, he had a vision, and when the vision disappeared, Francis was aware that in his hands and feet “were the scars of wounds and in the scars were the impressions of nails, so formed that they might be taken for the nails of the cross. And his right side was as though pierced by a lance.”

    He had received the wounds of Christ—the stigmata—a seal upon his body for the great love for the Passion of Christ that he bore in his soul.